HAMMOND | On the eve of Christmas Day, organizers of the Good Neighbor Christmas Cheer Fund estimated thousands of Northwest Indiana residents will have a Christmas dinner with food vouchers it funds.
Dan Gescheidler, who organizes the fund with his father John Gescheidler, said the fund has raised $44,654.11 as of Tuesday night. He said that total is the most the fund has ever raised in its 81 years of existence.
He said the last time the fund broke a fundraising record was in 2008.
Organizers work with The Salvation Army Hammond/Munster Corps to distribute food vouchers to families throughout the region. The vouchers can be used at local grocery stores to buy food for a Christmas dinner.
"I'm happy knowing that thousands of people that may have not had a Christmas dinner will now have a Christmas dinner," he said. "I sincerely thank all the families, individuals and businesses that helped make this the most successful campaign ever."
As of late last week, the fund had raised $40,346.31. Gescheidler said notable donations this week include a $1,000 donation from Peoples Bank. The Electric Co. in Hammond made a donation to the fund in memory of the late Grandpa Claus of North Hammond, who founded the company.
Grandpa Claus of North Hammond was the fund's most mysterious and generous donor. This season organizers learned that Grandpa Claus was really James P. Vacendak, of Highland, who died earlier this year. He was outed as Grandpa Claus of North Hammond in his obituary.
Anyone can still donate to the campaign, which will accept donations until the beginning of the year.
Donations can be made by visiting www.hammondnational.com and scrolling to the bottom of the page to click on the PayPal link. Donations also can be sent to The Times, 601 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321. Checks must be made payable to the Good Neighbor Christmas Cheer Fund.